AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

NOTT at Newbury

SIMON NOTT reports from the betting ring at Newbury on Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes day.

There were plenty of people at Newbury for Al Shaqab Lockinge day, plenty of bookmakers too. I got around the ring chatting to the ones that I know asking them to give us up to a minute on video as to why the punters should come racing and bet with the bookies. Some were a bit bashful which is a shame because they are all characters and have something to say. Look out for them on here soon, meet the bookies.

Rocky used to be a tac-tac man when I first came racing, everyone knew his name because you’d hear a chorus of ‘Rocky’ boomed out by frantic card waving men stood on bookies joints whenever they’d laid a thick one. He used to be one of three tic-tac men who still plied their trade on boxes by the rails in the late 1980’s early 1990’s. He now bets on the rails all over the south of England standing with his brothers as Kelross. He was keen to point out that ‘the betting ring is the best keep secret in betting’, he went on to explain ‘you can bet each-way with the fractions (that’s going to send a shiver down the spine of many a layer) and get some real value’. He’s right too, the ring may well use the exchanges to form their market but the figures they use as a guide are often miniscule. There might be only a couple of hundred quid available at a price on the machine but add up what you could back it a horse to win combined with the on-course bookies. It’s still by far the strongest market, no racecourse bookie ever turns down a cash punter if they can help it, and certainly not double figure bets, even the most careful of Silver Ring books of old would spin in their graves at the very thought though, well most of them.


Double-figure bets were what is was all about in the opener, business started busy but light according to the rails layers I talked to. I didn’t hear of any fortunes for anything in the first. It was probably just as well, one clerk confided ‘we could do without this winning’ as commentator Ian Bartlett tried to make a race of the Al Rayyan stakes. In reality, it wasn’t a race at all – 3/1 Hawkbill scooted up with the rest nowhere.

Business had picked up sufficiently for Paul Metcalfe of Pickwick-Bevan (est 2014) to just nod responding to my question on the business as he tapped bets into his computer. It seemed that the punters had finished exploring the course and necked their drinks and instead were having it on in the right and proper manner. Favourite backers left it behind though, Visionary at 4/1 and Defoe 8/1 winning the next two helped the layers scrape some back.

The feature Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes saw some spirited betting with the ring really buzzing. There was plenty of money for Somehow 5/1 into 10/3 while Ribchester was quite easy in the market. The value-seekers were there to snap with any arbs. One well-known face was lightning fast for the 15/8 when an intrepid rails book stuck his head above the price parapet. It must have been touch and go whether the dual-phoned punter managed to earn out of it though because 15/8 soon popped up in a few other places.


It didn’t last long, at least one high-street represented firm was soon funnelling money back into the ring. Some bookmakers evidently decided that given support for others in the race and the weakness of the jolly it was worth taking a chance. All but the most earnest in spirit had to capitulate eventually. The off-course money proved to be spot on, those layers that bravely stuck their chests out did their money in fine style when Ribchester won. They weren’t alone, the Star office got filled in too with the phones red hot all morning for Godolphin’s flying machine. The feature race was a terrible result for the ring as was the following Olympic Glory Conditions Stakes which went to 2/1 favourite Denaar which had bookies looking deep into their hods. ‘Not a dinar’ was a favourite saying from a bookmaking family named Webb a couple of decades back, either to refer to poor business or what they had left. It wasn’t a case of the former today.


One thing that did proliferate around the still buzzing betting ring were the amount of young smiling people getting involved. I remember my first day’s racing, Mackeson Gold Cup Day at Cheltenham in 1983. I didn’t back a winner but I simply loved it, the colour, the atmosphere, the sport and I still love it. Looking around the ring I’d bet that in 34 years time there will be someone regaling someone with a tale about the day they first went racing and that day was today. That’s what it’s all about, come racing, there’s nothing like it.